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Coalition told pushing new migrants into Australia's regions could undermine economy

Australia’s migrant council has urged caution against a strong push towards new arrivals moving to regional areas, believing it could stunt economic growth.

The immigration minister, David Coleman, said he was looking “very closely” to provide incentives and simplify the visa process to get more migrants to move outside of the major cities.

The prime minister, Scott Morrison, last week signalled plans to slow the intake of some temporary migrants and to encourage new arrivals to settle regionally.

The moves come as Sydney and Melbourne feel the strain of congestion and escalating populations. 

Coleman said giving immigrants good reasons to move to regional areas and remain there was key.

“I don’t want to get into specifics about particular visas and so on … but what I would say is that it’s about creating the right structure,” he told Sky News on Sunday.

“So the right incentives, the right reasons for immigrants to choose those regional areas.

“It’s also about ensuring that that’s followed through upon. Obviously if people come on a visa that’s meant to be based in a regional area, then compliance needs to be there to make that happen.”

The Migration Council Australia chief executive, Carla Wilshire, said evidence showed that migrants who settled in regional areas did well.

However, Wilshire said many immigrants had specialised skills that were best utilised in urban areas.

About 87% of skilled migrants move to Melbourne or Sydney.

“Migration is immensely important to Australia’s economic future and we need to be careful not throw the baby out with the bath water,” Wilshire said.

“A migration program that addresses the needs of regional Australia does not solve basic infrastructure problems. 

“If we are going to continue to grow and stay competitive, then we need to make the investment in infrastructure in our cities.”

The minister said there were a number of regions that had been calling for more immigrants, including South Australia, the Goldfields in Western Australia and Victoria’s Warrnambool.

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